Death at Sea film, campaign seeks enhanced protections for fisheries observers

Kiribati fisheries observer Eritara Aati Kaierua died at sea in March 2020
Kiribati fisheries observer Eritara Aati Kaierua died at sea in March 2020 | Photo courtesy of Human Rights at Sea International
4 Min

A campaign launched by Human Rights at Sea International, centered around a film about Eritara Aati Kaierua, a Kiribati fisheries observer who died at sea in March 2020, will push for greater protections for fisheries observers.

The Death at Sea Justice Campaign and the Death at Sea film, which premiered in January 2024, are sponsored by Blue Marine Foundation and the Sustainable Fisheries and Communities Trust.

“We intimately understand the importance of achieving a global precedent of justice being realized for fisheries observers,” Human Rights at Sea International Executive Director David Hammond said. “Through this justice campaign and the wider release of the film, we aim to establish a benchmark for international reference of accepted practices and policies that serve to better protect and compensate fisheries observers and their families.”

Specifically, the campaign will lobby Kiribati authorities to deliver worker compensation to Eritara’s family and will push for heightened protections for fisheries observers globally in regard to their safety and well-being at sea at fisheries governance meetings and seafood industry events.

“Despite the crucial role that fisheries observers play in the management of valuable marine resources, they are seldom given the protection and support that they deserve,” Blue Marine Foundation Head of Investigations Jess Rattle said. “Fisheries cannot be regarded as responsible or sustainable when examples of threats, intimidation, and serious human rights abuses continue. We’re thrilled to see the Death at Sea film receive the recognition that it deserves and hope that it will lead to increased transparency and improved conditions for fisheries observers and their families.”

The campaign will also engage with United Nations bodies including the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization, as well as regional fisheries management organizations, to advocate for the ratification of global agreements and adoption of management measures that serve to protect both observers and crew, according to a press release.

The film’s director, Sara Pipernos, is leading the construction of an interactive multilingual website that includes policy goals, a guide to Human Rights at Sea’s previous investigation of Eritara’s death, and timelines for future engagement with fisheries governance bodies.

“When Death at Sea first premiered back in January, it felt like only the beginning of our advocacy efforts as opposed to the culmination of a big project, and I’m so glad to be proven right,” Pipernos said. “I’m grateful that we can now use this film to fight for justice for Eritara’s family and fisheries observers across the globe.”

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